Category: Two Minutes of Torah

Parashat Vayeitzei • Genesis 28:10-32:3

Much ink has been spilled about Jacob’s dream in this week’s Torah portion Vayeitzei. The angels defy our expectations by first ascending and then descending, the inverse of what we might expect from “heavenly” beings. Just as important as their direction of travel, though, is their method of conveyance. These are angels, capable of moving about as they please! That they are climbing the rungs of a ladder teaches us an important lesson.

Mitzvah goreret mitzvah; aveirah goreret aveirah — fulfilment of one commandments leads to the fulfillment of another; one transgression also leads to another we read in Pirkei Avot. One step up toward living by our highest values, achieving what God wants from us, keeps us on the right path for future steps. One step down makes subsequent steps even easier as well. Travel in either direction, as the angels show us, happens one step, one rung, at a time. Choose wisely!

Rabbi Aaron Meyer


Parashat Tol'dot • Genesis 25:19−28:9

This week’s Torah portion, Toledot, speaks of sibling rivalry in mythic proportions. Jacob, the younger son, conspires with his mother to steal the birthright traditionally reserved for the oldest sibling. Upon learning of the deception, Esau repeatedly asks his father, “But do you only have one blessing to give”; perhaps both a practical question about material well-being and an insight into his newly fragile emotional state. Isaac fumbles this question, answering honestly about the exclusivity of the birthright without fully grasping the depth of his son’s emotions. 

All too often we join Isaac in thinking that love is a zero sum game. Our blessings, our good thoughts and kind words, are not limited commodities that we must monitor as expenditures but rather endless gifts that we can choose to bestow upon whomever we please. We can love many siblings, many friends, and even disparate people on opposite sides of conflict. We learn this difficult lesson the hard way in Toledot and must continually try to internalize it’s message. 

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer


B'reishit • Genesis 1:1−6:8

And so it begins, again. On Friday Night we will unfurl a Torah scroll, read the final verses of Deuteronomy and then start right in with the opening words of Genesis: another beginning, as we return to “the” beginning B’reishit. As we emerge from the thickly laden holy days into the new year, we come back to the text; the words remain the same, yet the eyes we bring to them are inevitably changed from year to year. A fresh read of the Torah might reveal newfound meaning, might call into question previous understandings, might unfurl new voices buried deep within the ancient stories.

B’reishit is a densely packed narrative, containing the mysterious accounts of creation of both light and dark, with an unflinchingly raw introduction of the same tendencies of the human impulse. Mere verses after our primordial birth we read about the first transgression, and then the next, each followed by transformation; as if the very act of creation set off other wheels of creation within itself. These sacred stories do not shy away from the myriad tendencies that exist within humanity, they ask us what we are to make of them, and how we are to weave them into our ever-evolving senses of self.

Rabbi Callie B. Schulman


A Special Rabcast from Rabbi Daniel Weiner

In response to the recent, tragic massacre in Las Vegas, Rabbi Weiner wants to share a special Rabcast from a few years ago, with a more timely introduction.  As you’ll note, it is painful that we confront the same horrors in the same season from year to year.  “When will they ever learn…?”


Parashat Shoftim • Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9

Watch The Best of Rabcast for Rabbi Weiner’s interpretation of this week’s parashah.


Parashat R'eih • Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17

“Take care not to offer your burnt offerings in any place you like but only in the place that God will choose.” This cautionary commandment in Parashat Re’eh, Deuteronomy 12:13-14, carries significance well beyond its simple meaning. Scholars posit this text was actually written AFTER Jerusalem had become the center of early Jewish life rather than while the Israelites were wandering in the desert. “In the place that God will choose” thus becomes a euphemism for the ancient Temple already well known to the people. For the author to have used the place name “Jerusalem,” a city the ancient Israelites couldn’t have known about, would destroy the guise of writing during the time of the Exodus and is intentionally avoided. Careful writing, however, can be unmasked through careful reading.

This, ultimately, is our job as inheritors of a sacred tradition. A close reading between the lines reveals something about the authors intentions, thinking, and situation that a casual glance might miss. Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. These same skills serve the contemporary Jewish people well as we examine modern-day texts and statements and attempt to ascertain their true meanings. May we continue to draw closer to God through inquisitive reading and study and may we never allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes through unquestioning acceptance of simple statements.

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer


Parashat Eikev • Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

Our parsha this week continues with the overarching theme of review that is the book of Deuteronomy. Parshat Eikev finds the Israelites still poised to enter the land, with Moses (still) reminding them of all they have encountered thus far; but Moses’ soliloquies are not pure review. Scattered throughout the re-telling of the Israelite’s wanderings in the desert we find warnings and prognostications of what the Israelites will encounter upon entering the Promised Land: namely, enemy peoples. In a strikingly early example of Jewish guilt, Moses admonishes the people, saying, “Know, then, that it is not for any virtue of yours that your God, Adonai is giving you this good land to possess; for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Deuteronomy 9:6) He then goes on to cite God’s previous covenant with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob as the reason for this continued relationship with the Israelites, and delivery into the Promised Land. 

Earlier this week I awoke to the old, familiar pain of a pinched nerve. Besides being a literal pain in the neck, this recurring injury results in a variety of secondary annoyances, limited range of motion and a shorter-temper to name a few. To be stiff-necked is to be intractable, unable to see the periphery, or to even look up or down. Traumatized by their years of slavery and burdened by their uncertain desert wanderings, it comes as no surprise that the Israelites became stiff-necked; unable to look up from their feet to the horizon, unable to find comfort in the views of the broader picture unfolding around them. And so they became ornery, quarrelsome and lost faith. But Moses’ speech in this parsha reminds us that to be stiff-necked need not be a permanent state: “… what does your God demand of you? Only this: to revere your God, to walk only in divine paths, to love and to serve your God with all your heart and soul…” (Deuteronomy 10:12). We can look up, look around, stretch out those places of constraint and move forward into fresh terrain – to savor the bigger picture and our own place in it while putting one foot in front of the other, ever moving forward. 

Rabbi Callie B. Schulman